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US officially rejoins Paris Climate accord, 107 days after it quit

Paris climate accord: What global leaders are really anticipating is for the US to announce the pathway for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030 with the ambition to put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Written by Abhimanyu Chakravorty | New Delhi |
Updated: February 20, 2021 8:59:01 pm
paris climate accord, US paris climate accordThe United States of America has officially rejoined the Paris Climate Accord. In the picture, US President Joe Biden is in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington. (AP)

The United States of America has officially re-joined the Paris Climate accord Friday, at least 107 days after it had quit the pact and 30 days after President Joe Biden fulfilled his promise on his first day in office. Today’s development is deeply symbolic for the rest of the world even as political leaders across the globe hope that America rises to the occasion and fulfill its climate ambitions.

What global leaders are really anticipating is for the US to announce the pathway for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases by 2030 with the ambition to put the country on a path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

On his first day in office, President Biden had signed an executive order reversing the Paris Climate accord pullout ordered by his predecessor, President Donald Trump, in 2019. “A cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” Biden had said in his inaugural address. “A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear now.”

In December 2015, 195 countries signed an agreement to slow the process of global warming by making efforts to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”.

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Speaking on the development, Laurence Tubiana, France’s Climate Change Ambassador and Special Representative for COP21 and CEO of the European Climate Foundation, hailed the US re-entry but added a note of caution that “the climate crisis is deepening”.

“It’s good to have the US back in the Paris Agreement, but sadly we have no time to celebrate. The climate crisis is deepening and this is the year we need all major polluters to step up and deliver stronger plans to deliver a safe, clean and prosperous future for everyone. The US needs to come to COP26 with a strong commitment: the urgency of the crisis is clear, and this means a new US target of at least 50% GHG cuts on 2005 levels by 2030, ideally more,” she said.

Gonzalo Muñoz and Nigel Topping, UN High Level Climate Champions for Chile’s COP25 and the UK’s COP26 summits respectively, welcomed the decision saying it would boost international climate cooperation en route to COP26.

“We welcome the United States’ official rejoining of the Paris Agreement today, a major boost to international climate cooperation en route to COP26. It sets the stage for new commitments by the Biden-Harris Administration, building on the dedicated and transformational work from US cities, states, businesses and investors over the last four years.”

While 2021 started on a good note with President Joe Biden setting a climate-neutral target for the US for 2050, experts believe that this year is being highlighted only because US re-entered the accord under the new administration.

“The biggest marker years will always be the ones which saw the Kyoto and Paris agreements come into being. The next one might be in 2023 if there is some key progress/messaging in the stocktake year,” said Vaibhav Chaturvedi, Fellow, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW).

“2021 is being highlighted only because the US re-entered the game. More than 2021, I would argue that 2020 was big given the net-zero announcements by EU, China, Japan, Korea, as well as Biden winning. All these events have set a pretty ambitious pace of decarbonisation for the world. 2021 would be big if India announces a net-zero target,” added Chaturvedi.

Meanwhile, even as the US formally joined the Paris Agreement, US Special Envoy on Climate Crisis, John Kerry asserted categorically that all 17 major emitting countries, which includes India, need to start acting on their climate ambitions and begin lowering emissions.

Speaking at a virtual event, Kerry was quoted as saying, “Everything has to be done with greater sense of urgency, with a determination that we have to win this fight… and we need the United States and every country to determine they will get on a path toward net zero emissions by 2050.”

“What steps will we take in the next 10 years? And the truth is that everybody has to do that. China, which is the largest emitter in the world needs to be part of the 2020 to 2030 effort. India needs to be part of it. Russia needs to be part of it. So is Japan,” Kerry said.

Most importantly, Kerry emphasised that this climate challenge only means that all countries setting bold and achievable targets have to do so here at home and in the course of their declaration of their national determined contributions (NDCs).

(With inputs from PTI)

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